Tattered Past

Tattered Past: My ongoing journey through genealogy, history, writing, self-exploration and art. ~~~ Rita Ackerman

Monday, February 28, 2011

Poetry In Motion

 Saturday we spent six hours at the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show. I haven't been to a show for years and this was my first time to see this amazing program. We watched the judging, visited vendors, toured barns and walked from arena to arena to see as much as possible.
 The Arabians were shown English and Western. I've always been drawn to English myself. Here's some western pleasure waiting for results. Look at the tail on that gray.

This was a dressage rider warming up. The clothing itself is amazing. I can't even imagine this lifestyle.
The barns had sitting areas with wide screen televisions, sofas and comfortable chairs. Behind curtains were the stalls and a chance to scratch a nose or two.

 Opposites. A dark horse pulling a cart and a gray with his winning ribbons.
Of course I found a heart.
In a way I lost my heart with the sounds, smells and feel of horses.

And felt like I was in heaven watching these beautiful animals:
Poetry In Motion.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

When History Meets Fiction

I have given three talks this week titled "When History Meets Fiction" about writing and reading historical fiction. It's been a lot of fun and I've met some really interesting people.

My friend, Phyllis, leads 12 book discussion groups, mostly at the local Barnes & Noble stores. The groups read "Warrior Woman" by James Alexander Thom and Dark Rain Thom. I supplemented the discussion with "The Art and Craft of Writing Historical Fiction" by James Alexander Thom.

As a historian, genealogist and author I found it quite interesting to read his comments on history and historical fiction. Basically a good historical novelist should do tons of research and then do more and more. The HF writer should be able to put the reader right down in that time and place including all the smells and sounds; good and bad.

There shouldn't be anachronisms such as sleep apnea being mentioned in a historical romance set in pre-Civil War America. That jolted me right out of that time and place!

I took old copies of Civil War era newspapers and photographs to show the group what it was like use these old documents. I also had copies of court and land records from Botetourt County, Virginia in the late 1700s where my McFerran family served with some of the people written about in the novel.
A real hands-on look at what research is like.
By agreeing to do this talk with Phyllis I learned a great deal about writing, research and the art of historical fiction. Teaching is always the best way to learn.

I believe all genealogists, historians, and writers should read Thom's book about the craft of writing historical fiction. It will open your eyes to all aspects of being a writer, researcher and reader.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tuesdays With Rita: Favorite Toys

While shuffling through one of my boxes of family pictures...
I came across this one of my sister.

I've looked at this photograph hundreds (thousands?) of times. It has been in the family suitcase of photos for as long as I've been around. Yet, I never really took the time to LOOK at it.

It looks like it must have been her birthday. However, Betty's birthday was in February so that doesn't seem right. Unless it was an unusually warm February in Kansas. Or were they visiting somewhere else? These are things I don't know. And sadly I have no way to find out. No family members are here to tell me about that day. She looks four or five to me. I think there are other family pictures of that car so I think if was ours. Betty always talked about a dog that meant a lot to her, but right now I can't remember his name.

I'm sad I don't have these answers. That I didn't write the things I did know down.
(It's going to bug me all night until I remember that dog's name.)

Which became her favorite toy? Did the dog like to chase her on the tricycle?
Did she pretend she was riding a horse? Where was this? Who else was there?

Do you have photographs like this? Can you get the answers? Are there similar photos of you?
Will your grandchildren know about them?

Find a photo from your family and write about all the details you can.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Tuesdays With Rita: First Crush

Last week I hinted at my first crush; besides my cousin that is. Maybe Jon was my first love because look at this picture. That's my mom holding me on the left and Jon being held by his mother, Alberta, on the right.
There's no date but I'm guessing early 1954. 
Here we are again.

My parent's cafe burned down soon after and we moved away from that town but my grandparents lived there for many more years so we did see Jon and his family again.

In second grade I went to live with my grandparents for the year.

Jon and I "met" and fell in love. I still remember one day during recess, or maybe it was after school, Jon took me in to our classroom. The only one there was the teacher. A wonderful, kind lady who's family owned a ranch in the area.
There in front of Mrs. Bentley, Jon gave me a ring and we swore our undying love, or whatever it is second graders swear.

Grandma later told me that Mrs. Bentley called to tell her about it. She thought it was so cute but we obviously didn't know we had known each other all our lives.

Back in Great Bend I didn't exactly forget Jon but life went on and then when I was thirteen Mom and I moved to Phoenix. A year or so later Jon's family moved to Tucson and came up to visit us. I don't remember that meeting very well but I think shyness was the word for that day.

We kept in touch and while in college a friend and I were touring southern Arizona and we stopped in to see Jon. I remember being sad when we left but that was about all. Jon married and had a little girl. I married and also had a little girl.
Jon passed away a short time later.

He still has a little place in my heart.

I've been hearing lots of great stories about first crushes. Thank you all for sharing, either as comments or in e-mails. It means a lot to me to stir your memories and help you get them down...hopefully on paper or saved somewhere safe.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Birthday Arizona

Arizona became the 48th state ninety-nine years ago today. They had a Countdown to Arizona's Centennial at the state capitol today. See the beautiful copper dome in the background? It was a beautiful 80 degrees: the reason we live in Arizona to begin with.

Buckshot Dot gave a rousing rendition of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Not very accurate but full of colorful descriptions of some of the early Tombstone characters.

Marshall Trimble, state historian; and Dolan Ellis, state troubadour, sang and told stories.

Marshall announced that history was made today. He had received a letter from a fifth grade girl in California asking about our official state nickname.We didn't have one. Today, Marshall and the girl joined others in the capitol as Gov. Brewer officially nicknamed our state "The Grand Canyon State."
Well, I say it's about time!

My favorite display was this one from the Arizona Military Museum.
I love to imagine the people who used these items.

Happy Birthday Arizona!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tuesdays With Rita: First Crush and Weddings

Valentine's Day is fast approaching and everybody is thinking red, white, pink hearts.

Last week in the Writers Inspiration Group the leader asked us to write about our first crush.

I wrote about Johnny and I will share that story when I can find the picture of him.

In the meantime, meet my other young crush. Isn't he cute? He's also my cousin, Dean. Who knew in kindergarten or first grade that there was a problem with that. Dean is one year minus one day older than me and I spent many a summer and holiday with his family. He's the closest thing I ever had to a brother.

As the years went Dean, his younger sister, Kay, and I played marathon games of Risk and Monopoly.

 Dean played the trumpet, tap danced, played drums in a band, hunted, and worked on his family farm. He later became a deputy sheriff and has been elected for many terms as sheriff of his home county in Kansas. I've always been proud of my cousin and am proud to admit that I remember when walking to school with the neighbor boy I told him I was going to marry my cousin, Dean.

The years passed and I met Doug. We've been married for 34 years
Not bad, huh?

Who was your first crush?  

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Tuesdays With Rita: Black Sunday

As a big part of the United States is being buried under snow I thought it ironic that I had planned on posting these pictures from the Dust Bowl.
These three postcards were in with the family photos I used to go through by the hour as a child.

My mother had her 13th birthday the month of this photo. They lived near Dodge City at the time.

I've seen dust storms come in over Phoenix that look like a wall. Here they have a reddish tint and usually pass quickly. The dust bowl didn't pass until most people were ruined.

April 14, 1935 was Black Sunday:

"The wind was travelling at a speed of sixty miles an hour; when it struck, visibility was reduced to zero for a period of twenty minutes, after which time visibility was limited to ten feet or less, lasting for forty-five minutes, then visibility increased to fifty feet or more at sporadic intervals and thereafter gradually increasing until normal nightfall." U. S. Government Weather Bureau at Dodge City KS.  From The Black Sunday of April 14, 1935. Kansas Historical Society.

Grandma Jennie said the family went into the storm cellar. I wonder how they kept from being buried down there. Grandad Cecil wanted to go out and check on things and she asked why he wasn't going out. He said he was outside but it was dark as night. She said they used wet blankets and such to try to keep the dirt out but it came in anyway and they had to use shovels to move it back outside.

People lost everything they owned as the dust drifted up to their houses and covered fence posts and farm equipment. Many people died from "dust pneumonia" and Woody Gutherie did a series of ballads and recordings about those awful times.

Take some time to Google the dust bowl. There is an amazing amount of information and photographs of the walls of dust and what was left when the winds finally quit. Most important, ask your family if they have stories of the dust bowl and record those stories for the future.